BWW Interviews: Steve Soloman Brings His Crazy Italian-Jewish Family HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS at The McCallum Theatre
The McCallum Theatre presents Steve Soloman's "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish And I'm Home For The Holidays" for three performances December 1 at 8:00 pm and December 2 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm. "I'm Home For The Holidays" is a laugh filled evening of chaos featuring hilarious stories and characterizations of his family, friends and all of the other folks he has met along the way that drove him into Therapy in the first place. I had the chance to catch up with the Award winning comedian to talk all things "Steve Soloman" as he prepares for his trip to Palm Desert. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
DG: We're excited to see you at The McCallum this weekend.
SS: I'm excited to be at The McCallum. I love that place.
DG: I'm somewhat new to the desert. So, you've appeared at The McCallum Theatre before?
SS: Yes, I was there twice. It was just terrific. I think the first time we sold out. The people were just wonderful.
DG: I know that there were two iterations of this show before the " My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish - Home For The Holidays" version. ("I'm In Therapy" and "I'm Still In Therapy") When did you create your first one man show?
DG: What led you to the "Home For The Holidays" version of the show?
SS: It was completely by accident. I was performing in Las Vegas and we had done both shows at one of the beautiful hotels there – I think it was the Hilton – and our agent came out from William Morris when met with entertainment buyer and he said "well, look, we've had both of Steve's shows – why don't we hold off for a year or so". And the agent said "Well, what about his holiday show". I didn't have a holiday show. So they said "Sounds great. Lets book it". Well, I had about ten months to write a holiday show. And I met with my director and it came together so well. Critics are now calling it the best of the three. I don't really care what the critics say, but I just know the people love it. It's a lot of fun. I do twenty different characters. Everything from (he speaks with a dialect) my sister the smoker to (another voice) my daughter who talks like this to my Mama to my Papa to twenty other people – doctors you meet – TSA agents, Everybody relates to it and that's what makes it work.
DG: I wish I could get all those voices in print. (HE laughs) So, what was the impetus to branch out from your stand-up to writing a one man show?
SS: Umm, I did stand-up for a while. While I was doing stand-up I was the assistant superintendent of schools on Long Island and I realized you couldn't male a living at stand-up. And, plus I was about twenty years older than most of the guys on stage. I just wanted to create something that would have universal appeal. To theatre audiences. And that's what the original show was. And it was very successful, It ran for, I think two years. And that's it. The nice thing is you don't have to be Italian or Jewish to appreciate the show if you know what it's like to go to a big family dinner and get out of there with the heartburn and realize why you left home in the first place.
DG: So, was this material spawned from material you did in stand-up or is this completely new?
SS: In this show – the holiday show is completely original. I've written all three but this one had nothing to do with stand-up whatsoever. The opening takes place in Atlanta at the airport and I'm trying to get home for the holidays. The first thing the audience hears is me on the phone talking to my parents – who all you hear are whistles from their hearing aids – and I'm saying "It's tense. It's bad. Nothing's coming out. I'm trapped in Atlanta" And my father says "He says his intestines are bad. Nothing's coming out. He's getting Mylanta". That's the way it opens. It's ninety minutes of a lot of fun.
DG: So what do you want audiences to take away?
SS: Nothing. Wiping tears from their eyes. I want them to take away that this was one of the best nights of comedy they ever had, There's no message here. It's just, let's have fun, let's go through the chaos with me, let's relate. And that's what they all do.
DG: Where did you get your start doing comedy?
SS: I used to do roasts for the men's club at my father's temple and my mama's church so I wasn't afraid of a microphone. And I worked in front of classrooms all my life – I was a Physics teacher. Umm, I started doing stand-up on Long Island at a place called "Tip's Comedy Club" which was the first Comedy Club in America. I cut my teeth there for a couple of years but I knew that that wasn't the way to go. So …
DG: Did you always want to be on stage?
SS: Nope. I was going to be a physicist. I was always a character. He class clown. I always wrote material for friends who did roasts or speeches. They always said "Steve, give me a good joke". So I would be able to write those things for them and I realized I had a talent. Now there are four other actors doing my shows around the world. I trained them and they're doing very well.
DG: So there is an actual script?
SS: Yep. They're working from a script. But every singe day of my life I write new lines and I always send out emails – try this and try that. And most of it works. I just added a line that stops the show. I say – talking about our divorce – I say "I think we stayed together for the kids. Neither of us wanted custody".
DG: Besides comedy, what are your other passions?
SS: Comedy. I write it. I breathe it. I see it. It's a gift. I play the piano. I love the piano. Between writing and performing I'll sit down and play the piano.
DG: What's something that maybe people wouldn't know about you from reading your resume?
SS: Well, that you'll have to get from my parole officer. (He laughs)
DG: Great line. Oh, I didn't ask -- How long is the show?
SS: It runs ninety minutes. If it's a great crowd it'll run ninety- five minutes. A hundred minutes. If they're a really great audience, surprises happen. And my stage manager just writes down all the new stuff. But with a big audience you have a longer laugh and the show lasts longer.
DG: Is it played without intermission?
SS: No, there's an intermission. The seniors need to pee.
DG: I'm glad I asked. Final question. Years from now, when you pass form this earth, how do you want to be remembered on your tombstone?
SS: I told you I was sick!
Steve Soloman's "My Mother's Italian, My Father's Jewish plays the McCallum Theatre on December 1 at 8:00 pm and December 2 at 2:00 and 7:00 pm. Tickets are prices from $25. to $75. and may be purchased at www.mccallumtheatre.com.